Meteorite Hunting

Have you ever wished on a shooting star? And has that wish ever been that its meteorite would land at your feet…

…or, maybe a little farther away, but somewhere easily found so you could have your own meteorite?

Well, it is possible to find your own meteorite, or, failing that, buy one. (Note: I have not dealt with the Meteorite Market, so I cannot vouch for them; they are an example of a place online where you can buy meteorites.) You can also collect your own micrometeorites pretty easily. First, the bigger meteorites. There are several good resources online for how to hunt for meteorites, such as here, here, here, and here, so I’m not going to go into extreme detail with this post.

For a change of pace, this is one astronomy activity where you’ll need to be looking down, not up. Look for rocks that look a little different, especially if they look smooth, or rusty, or have a dark surface (fusion crust) as though it had been fired in a kiln, or “cooked.” They will be irregular in shape, not spherical. Look at a lot of pictures of meteorites to get an idea of their appearance. They are easier to find in arid, dry, desert areas where they will look more conspicuous and be better preserved; wind and water can erode meteorites. All meteorites contain metal, so a magnet will be attracted to them. Get a strong magnet and dangle it from a string to test for meteorites. Check out the links above for more tips and details.

Do not hunt on land you don’t have permission to hunt on. Trespassing is illegal, and the National Park Service prohibits the removal of any natural object, including meteorites.

If this sounds like more work than you have time for, or you don’t get out enough to look, you still can gather your own space treasure fairly easily by collecting micrometeorites. Tons of microscopic metallic meteorites fall to Earth each day. A web search will pull up a lot of sites describing how to collect micrometeorites. Basically, you can gather them from rainwater collected from a house or building’s drain spouts, or you can leave a large piece of white paper or plastic outdoors on a sunny day to collect dust. You’ll need a magnet to sort the micrometeorites from other debris, and a microscope to view them with. You may be able to get by with a magnifying glass, but a microscope is better. The micrometeorites should look spherical and pitted. Here are a couple of sources detailing the process: Collecting Micrometeorites by the JPL Public Education Office, Collecting Micrometeorites by the MadSci Network, The Red Phoxes, Micrometeorites by Bizarre Stuff You Can Make in Your Kitchen.

Happy hunting!

–More Astronomommy posts about Meteors include “Hello, Meteor” and “A Shooting Star is Not a Star.”

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This entry was posted in Astronomy Activities, Meteors, Online Resources and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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